Has adjustable heel, foot, and toe straps. Made of material that allows for airflow. Can be washed by hand. Made of padding, cotton, and a foam layer that reduces shock. Fits sizes 5 through 11.
May not be comfortable for some users.
Comfortable sleeves with built-in toe separators and protective gel padding. Pliable, breathable guards help with tight shoes. Standard spacers offer corrective support. Includes a toe strap.
A few accounts of the sleeve spacers falling off after washing.
Makes a space of 0.5 inches between the toes. Gentle and made of silicone. Designed to stay put with wider surface areas on the top and bottom. For women’s shoe sizes 6 to 12 or men’s 6 to 11.
May not feel very flexible.
Includes 2 adjustable splints, 2 bunion covers made of medical-grade silicone, and instructions. For sizes 3 through 12. Splints have 3 adjustable straps and are made of neoprene.
May be best for mild cases.
Set comes with splints, bunion shield, toe separator, and toe exercise strap. Splints have adjustable heel, foot, and toe straps and fit sizes 5 through 12. Gel toe separators can be used at night. Splints are washable.
Sizing may not be accurate.
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A bunion is a bony, sometimes painful bump that forms at the base of the big toe as the ligaments and bones of the foot shift out of alignment. Bunions are experienced by nearly one-fourth of all adults. They can show up at any time, though most people don’t start to notice them until early adulthood or later. Ill-fitting shoes or excessive use of high heels can be a cause, though genetics can also be a factor. Bunion pain stems from the pressure put on the joint of the toe and from the bunion rubbing against the inside of shoe.
Bunion splints are designed to slow the progress of the bunion and relieve pressure and pain. They offer one way to delay and/or deflect the need for surgery. If a bunion has made your every step painful, a bunion splint is an inexpensive solution.
Take a look at our shopping guide to learn about the types of splints available and which one might be right for you.
Toe splints: A toe splint creates space between the big and second toes, correcting the toe position during static and dynamic movement. Some designs also cushion the surface of the bunion against rubbing on the shoe. These splints can be made of gel or a gel/fabric combination. Some have a sleeve that fits around the middle of the foot to keep the splint in place. Most toe splints are designed to be worn with shoes.
Toe spacers (toe stretchers): Toe spacers aren’t as aggressive in correcting a bunion as toe splints or night splints. Some are designed as a sleeve that fits over one or two toes, while others are a spacer held in place by the toes. Full-foot spacers separate all five toes to relieve tight muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Some toe spacers are designed to wear in a shoe while others, like the full-foot spacers, are better used at night.
Bunion pads or guards: Pads and guards don’t attempt to correct the bunion but rather cushion it from rubbing on the shoe or neighboring toe. They’re usually made of gel or a moleskin fabric.
Price: Single toe spacers, pads, and splints start at around $5, though you’ll find some for even less. Toe splints and separator sleeves cost between $5 and $10.
Night splints: Night splints have a plastic or Velcro strap that pulls the toe into the correct position and anchors it in place with straps across the middle of the foot. As the name suggests, these splints are only meant for nighttime use because they don’t allow for the dynamic movement required for walking. Forget about fitting them into a shoe. People who are on their feet most of the day often find relief with this type of splint because it allows the muscles and tendons around the bunion to relax at night.
Price: Night splints start at $8 with some of the adjustable models costing around $30.
Bunion splint sets: If you’re not sure what kind of splint you need, or you want different splints to address different shoes and situations, you’ll be happiest with a splint set. While the contents vary, one set typically includes a toe spacer, pad, and splint. Many sets includes sleeves and splints for both feet.
Bunion severity: Bunions range from mild to severe. A mild bunion may only require a bunion pad and toe spacer to slow progress, while a severe bunion will probably need a more aggressive approach using a night splint and toe splint. If you’ve just started to notice the formation of a bunion, early intervention can keep it from limiting your activity. A bunion that causes constant pain might need the attention of a physician who may recommend a splint or corrective surgery.
Activity level: In general, the more time you spend on your feet, the more likely it is that your bunion will cause discomfort and pain. Runners need more aggressive solutions than someone who leads a sedentary lifestyle. If you need a splint to wear all day, splints with sleeves stay in place the best. More active people might also want to combine daytime wear with a night sleeve for more relief.
Pad style: Bunion pads and cushions come in several styles. One is not better than another. It’s a matter of what is most comfortable for you.
Gel pad: Gel pads provide a protective barrier between your bunion and the interior surface of your shoe. Gel moves with your foot to reduce irritation. While gel pads work well, they quickly get dirty and some break down easily.
Cushion: Cushions cover the bunion to protect it from rubbing against your shoe. Some adhere to the surface of your shoe while other adhere directly to your foot.
Sleeve: Sleeves fit around the big toe with a band around the middle of the foot to hold a cushion over the bunion. Sleeves stay in place well and can be worn without socks if needed.
Materials: Most bunion splints are made of gel, fabric, silicone, and/or plastic.
Gel: Gel provides a semisoft, flexible surface that can both cushion and correct. The drawback is its somewhat sticky surface that can attract dirt and debris. Most gel splints can be hand-washed with dish detergent, but you’ll have to do it regularly to keep the splint clean.
Fabric and gel: A fabric/gel combination helps hold the gel in place and covers the sticky surface of the gel to keep it cleaner. The fabric usually glides more easily between the shoe and foot. However, the fabric and gel can separate, so these splints aren’t as durable as some of the other models.
Fabric, silicone, plastic: These three materials are used to make some night splints. For comfort reasons, the plastic is on the outside of the gel and fabric. These splints can’t be worn in shoes and can’t bear the weight necessary for walking.
Comfort: Bunion splints are all about making your foot more comfortable, though not necessarily while the splint is on. (Night splints are effective, but they can be uncomfortable to sleep in.) You might have to try a few different designs before you find one that feels good, fits in your shoes, and has good durability.
Adjustability: Some splints use air or strap pressure to provide more or less correction of the bunion. These models are usually night splints and often cost more.
Buy extras. Once you find a splint style you like, buy a few extras so you’ll always have a clean, dry splint ready to wear. Splints are small and easy to misplace, so keeping a few around will mean you’ll always have relief nearby.
Care for your feet. You’ll need to take proper care of your feet when using a bunion splint. The feet should be washed and completely dried, including between the toes, before putting on a night splint. Any trapped moisture could lead to the development of foot fungus.
Q. Does the type of shoe I wear make a difference?
A. Shoes definitely have an impact on bunions. As we’ve already mentioned, high heels, especially those with a narrow toe box, lead to more bunion pain. Other types of shoes may irritate your bunion, too. Shoes with a wide toe box allow enough room for your foot to move without rubbing your bunion.
Q. Do bunion splint sets come with sleeves for both feet?
A. If the set includes a sleeve, it usually includes one for each foot (but check closely). When buying single sleeves, toe splints, or night splints, be sure to check which foot it’s for so you get the correct one.